There was a buzz at Newport Harbor High on Tuesday. The bees swarming the visiting dugout in the top of the fifth inning didn't create all of it.
All the rage was the triple play Huntington Beach turned in the bottom of the fourth, helping the Oilers dodge yet another offensive threat. In the next inning, bees forced all the Oilers to drop to the ground in the dugout, and the batter on deck and the one in the batter's box.
The bees appeared to have posed more of a hindrance to the Oilers than the Sailors did. No one on the Oilers' side got stung, just the Sailors when it came to their inability to produce with runners in scoring position.
The Sailors doubled the Oilers' hit total of four, but Huntington Beach didn't need much in the way of offense to win, 3-0, and stay undefeated in Sunset League play.
Three pitchers — Sean O'Toole, Hagen Danner and Logan Pouelsen — combined for an eight-hit shutout to keep Huntington Beach (11-2, 6-0 in league) in first place. O'Toole, the starter, is the right-hander who got out of the jams during his five-inning stint.
The Sailors' hitting woes with runners on kept them from improving to .500 in league and wasted what Newport Harbor Coach Evan Chalmers called Shaun Vetrovec's best outing on the mound this season. They collected eight hits, none to bring home anyone. Vetrovec (4-2), who in seven innings struck out nine and allowed four hits, one for a solo home run to Tyler Murray in the sixth inning, and one walk, stood no chance to win.
"We had our worst at-bats with runners in scoring position," said Chalmers, whose best hitters proved to be Vetrovec and Connor Seabold, each had two hits. "We're close, but somebody has to have the courage to be able to bash the [the ball] with runners in scoring position. We set the tables plenty of times today and just came up empty there."
Newport Harbor (8-5, 2-4) stranded a runner on second base in the first inning, and then runners on third and second in each of the second, third and fifth innings. All hurt, none as much as the time the Sailors appeared in business in the fourth inning against the top-ranked team in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 poll.
In the top of the fourth, a two-out error in shallow right field by the Sailors allowed the Oilers to take a 2-0 lead. Vetrovec, who's bound for UC Irvine, got the next batter to go down swinging, and the Newport Harbor offense was about to help its ace. Keith Marshall and Jake Norton began the bottom of the fourth with singles, leaving runners at the corners for Cameron Jabara.
Five pitches later, O'Toole induced a comebacker to the mound. O'Toole checked the runner at third base, who retreated to the bag, before he fired to second base to turn a possible double play. The Oilers got more than two. Marshall decided to go home and he didn't make it as the defense turned a 1-6-3-2 triple play.
"It's a tough one," Chalmers said, "because [Marshall's] supposed to sit on a comebacker to the pitcher. He's not supposed to score, but if the [pitcher] receives it, and turns a double play, then he's got to go [home]. When he retreated, that's when, you know, he took himself out of the play.
"If you hesitate, you're toast."
There was no wavering on Rigsby Duncan's part in the fourth inning and it still hurt the Sailors.
With two down and two runners on, the right fielder charged toward shallow right field, where Jabara, the second baseman, camped underneath the fly ball to make a catch. Duncan called Jabara off and then he failed to catch the third out, diving for it and missing it. The error resulted in two runs, more than enough for O'Toole, who struck out five, walked two and gave up seven hits, to improve to 3-0.
"When you're playing competition like this, you got to be perfect," Chalmers said. "It's a tough game. You're not always going to be perfect. I credit our kids for a great effort. I can't really get mad at a right fielder who's chasing the ball. I understand [he's trying to make a play]. Hopefully we'll learn from those things. It's a great group of kids and they'll bounce back. I just want to point out the opportunities that we had and have them understand that we've got to seize those moments."
The Oilers are the team that has made the most of their chances. Half of their league games have been decided by five runs. They pulled out a 2-1 win at defending champion Fountain Valley, then edged Edison, 3-2, at home, and blanked Newport Harbor, 3-0, on the road.
"Like I told these guys, when you're rolling a little bit, and I'm not saying we're rolling, but we've had a good string of luck," said Coach Benji Medure, whose Huntington Beach team can sweep the three-game series against the Sailors when its plays host to them on Thursday.
"[This game was] just like any other Sunset League game. It's a freaking nightmare every game and I have to be careful what I eat before the game because it's going to make my stomach hurt."
A stomachache is probably less painful than a bee sting. He avoided at least one of the two at Newport Harbor.
Huntington Beach 3, Newport Harbor 0
SCORE BY INNINGS
HB000 201 x – 3 4 0
Newport000 000 0 – 0 8 2
O'Toole, Danner (6), Pouelsen (7) and Murray; Vetrovec and McWhertor. W – O'Toole, 3-0. L – Vetrovec, 4-2. 2B – Seabold (NH). HR – Murray (HB).